Jack Bivans, 1925-2009; radio voice of Captain Midnight's sidekick

Jack Bivans' voice was a staple of radio in old-time programs like "Captain Midnight," "Guiding Light," and "The Shadow."

"It was his whole life," Paul Bivans said of his father's passion for acting. "He never made the transition as an actor from radio to TV or movies, but he really saw himself being a Hollywood actor."

To find the consistent paycheck acting couldn't deliver, Mr. Bivans leveraged his connections in the radio business for a career in broadcast ad sales, working at WBBM-AM, WFLD-TV and Century Broadcasting.

"I think it was an easy transition to sales in radio, because you kind of have to be an actor to sell," his son said.

Mr. Bivans, 83, died of causes related to a stroke on Friday, Aug. 14, in a nursing home in Elkhorn, Wis., his son said.

Mr. Bivans' radio career began with doing Ovaltine commercials on the "Little Orphan Annie" radio show in 1939, but his best-known part came in 1942, when he took the role of sidekick Chuck Ramsey in "Captain Midnight."

Mr. Bivans' seven-year tenure on "Captain Midnight" was interrupted by World War II and two years of service with the Army Air Forces.

When he returned from the war, he continued acting, taking a role in 1950 working on a syndicated radio show called "Unshackled," telling dramatized tales of religious experiences. He continued in that role until 2007.

In search of more money, he decided to try his luck in the world of ad sales.

"I had a lot of friends that were comparably aged to me who were working at radio stations in town and they were making good money selling commercials," Mr. Bivans wrote on his Web site. "They drove better cars, they wore better clothes, they lived in homes and I thought, 'For crying out loud ... I know one thing for a fact; they are not any smarter than I am.' "

Starting at WBBM, he worked his way up from a salesman to a position as general sales manager, a job he later held at WFLD, eventually landing a job as national sales manager at Century Broadcasting.

Mr. Bivans was married and divorced three times and was a fastidious man, according to his family. His second wife, Geraldine Bivans, recalled that going to restaurants together was always a production.

"He wiped his mouth after almost every bite -- with a new napkin every time," she said. "Every time he'd go out, he'd say, 'Bring out the napkins!' "

The couple divorced in 1982 but stayed friends. Both retired to Lake Geneva, Wis., where they would socialize together and give each other rides to doctors' appointments.

"We took care of each other," she said. "We were good friends up until the very end."

Mr. Bivans is also survived by another son, Kirby; a daughter, Kim Muir; two stepdaughters, Kathleen Raasch and Marcia Kennelly; a stepson, Donald Kennedy; and 11 grandchildren.

Services have been held.

bmeyerson@tribune.com

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